The Third Side

by Maria Simpson
April 2017

From Maria Simpson's Two-Minute Training listserv

Maria Simpson

Sometimes “new” information on conflict resolution sounds like what we already know, but an existing idea can be reframed and sound new all over again.
 
William Ury is the co-author of Getting to Yes, a seminal book in conflict resolution, and in his TED Talk called The Walk from “no” to “yes,” he provides an idea that may not be entirely new but somehow calls attention to something we have known all along and makes it feel new. 
 
In his book Why We Fight and How We Can Stop, Ury talks about “the third side” or “going to the balcony,” metaphors for taking or finding a new perspective on an old issue. That perspective might come from getting new information or from inviting someone into the conversation and hearing another perspective on the disagreement.
 
The concept of “walking to yes” is also, however, quite literal. As Ury explains it, when we walk, we walk side-by-side, even with someone we consider an enemy, and walk at the same pace in the same direction. Those physical conditions automatically make the parties collaborative rather than competitive, at least about walking, and that is a first step.
 
His metaphor continues by saying that if we take a walk with someone with whom we disagree, we might reach agreement or at least greater understanding. (Taking a walk is often a means of taking a break and reducing tension during a mediation.) He cites many walks that have been conducted in cities all over the world as demonstrations of the contribution of walking together to peace.
 
He also suggests that the third side is US, that we are the third side of the argument, we are the friends, allies, community members who can remind the parties of the real issue, the underlying issue, and of what is at stake: “for the sake of  . . . we must resolve this issue.” Because we become personally involved in the story of the conflict, we can provide a new perspective that can move the resolution process forward.
 
This short summary doesn’t do justice to Ury's TED Talk or to his book, so I urge you to watch the video. It’s about 18 minutes and well worth your time to find this new perspective on an old idea, and besides, his opening story about the camels is worth the viewing time all by itself. 
 
In the meantime, and have an absolutely wonderful and peaceful week.

Biography


Maria Simpson, Ph.D. is an executive coach, consultant, trainer and mediator who has worked extensively with the corporate, non-profit and conflict resolution communities to promote incorporating conflict resolution into organizational systems and training people in the skills and approaches of mediation.

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